The Star Trek cinematic universe can definitely be daunting to navigate with its time travel, alternate timeline, and varied settings, so here’s a guide for how to watch them in chronological order. Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry, and is one of the sci-fi genre’s most enduring and beloved franchises. The first episode of Star Trek: The Original Series aired in 1965, and introduced iconic characters which are still the central focus of new stories today, such as William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock.
A further 11 Star Trek TV shows have since been produced, including the currently running Star Trek Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, and Prodigy, with another series, Strange New Worlds, confirmed for 2022, and a further Discovery spinoff in the early stages of development. When the first Star Trek series was canceled in 1969, Roddenberry campaigned for a continuation in a movie format, but it would be a full decade before Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released, with a further 12 movies released after that.
The Star Trek movies are split into three distinct eras. Firstly, there are six Original Series films, which were released between 1979 and 1991, featuring the beloved cast and characters from that original TV show. Following those, there are four movies released between 1994 and 2002, which feature the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and are referred to as The Next Generation (or, TNG) films. Lastly, the three films released between 2009 and 2016 (with a fourth installment in production) are referred to as the Kelvin Timeline, and refer to the JJ Abrams-directed and -produced films starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, and Simon Pegg. The best way to watch the Star Trek movies is straightforward and matches the release dates of each film.
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
- Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)
- Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
- Star Trek Generations (1994)
- Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
- Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
- Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
- Star Trek (2009)
- Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
- Star Trek Beyond (2016)
As any true Trekkie will know, the Kelvin Timeline films are a reboot of sorts and – like The Original Series films – focus on the exploits of Captain Kirk, Spock and the rest of their crew. For the Star Trek novice, the Kelvin Timeline films basically create an alternate reality that unfolds parallel to the timeline from The Original Series.
Exactly what the next installment in the Star Trek movie series will look like is unknown. Since Star Trek Beyond came out in 2016, a follow-up film of some sort has been in and out of development with Quentin Tarantino even attached to direct an R-rated sequel at one point. Currently, Noah Hawley is set to direct the next Star Trek movie but has yet to confirm whether it’ll be a continuation of the Kelvin Timeline or a new film entirely.